"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Butler and Acker have stepped up - McNeal & Matthews return to form can give us tourney wins

The thing that was most discouraging to me about Mo Acker giving the ball to Johnny Flynn to lose the Syracuse game was that both he and Butler had done everything we could have hoped for the first 39 minutes of the game – resulting in both being on the CBS leader board for Saturday.

With DJ’s great minutes all year, Acker has the fresh legs that can be the difference come tournament time. Saturday he played 40 minutes, had only one other turnover, and his 7 assists were the 4th most of any player on the country on that day.

Jimmy Butler also made the CBS leaders list with 14 rebounds, the 5th best total of any player in the country Saturday – and I’m sure his 10 offensive rebounds were probably the best. I also thought Lazar was unbelievable, constantly drawing three Orangemen to him and still gettig and controlling the ball.

Those three are playing so well on the offensive end, that if Wes and Jerel light it up, I really think we could explode for 90 in the first round of the NCAA and then have a shot in a second round game of just outscoring someone.

Surprisingly, the problem since Dominic broke his foot has not been whether or not Acker and Butler could step up – they have – it’s been the broken symmetry of the TWO Amigos. Several national commentators commented during the season that it would be rare to see the incredible symmetry of Marquette’s three guards in the days of one-and-dones, but with that symmetry broken it’s our future NBA players, Wes and Jerel, that need to adjust to score without the benefit of Dominic drawing two defenders by faking drives, and then threading passes to them.

Jerel and Wes FG% has dropped 17% & 20% without James

McNeal was shooting 49% in Big East play when DJ went down, and he has shot 32% since.

Matthews was shooting 55% in Big East play when DJ went down, and he has shot 35% since.

Granted, these have been tough defenses down the stretch, but not enough to account for that kind of drop, and Lazar’s shooting percentage has actually gone up in those four games. The great news is with the other three stepping up so well, a return to form for either, much less both Amigos, could result in MU exploding offensively in upcoming tournament games.

Can MUs defense stop tournament foes?

I think what we really need to watch for in tournament match-ups is what teams we have a chance to contain. I am as worried about facing a big, strong point guard like AJ Price or Johnny Flynn, as going up against a team with two strong big men inside. I pointed out in an earlier column that DJ was holding opponents star guards to 8 points a game in all but one Big East game, and watching Price light us up for 36 after DJ went down, and then Flynn going by McNeal at will makes me think it’s the point guard that can kill us.

The big point guard also kills us by being able to get the ball inside to take advantage of the mismatches. When DJ was engaging them 60 feet from the basket, and they were scared of having their pockets picked, Big East teams were averaging 16 assists a game against us (the same as MU was registering despite not having a big man for the easy assists underneath).

Seeing opposing teams deal out 45 assists against MU the last two games, the question is whether or not we have a defensive set that can stop the easy passes underneath for baskets. Dominic was lightning fast at employing his 40-inch vertical to just jump and steal the ball above his head when they tried to go over him, so I don’t know if we can afford to put Butler or Matthews at the point on defense some to discourage the easy high pass to the low post or not, but I’d sure like to give Matthews a little break from banging on some 6-10 guy all game long.

The bottom line is this team can explode to score enough to beat teams in the tournament, but we may have to win games more like the 90-85 game we came up short in against Alabama the Three Amigos freshman year. Butler and Acker have stepped up, Hayward has stayed incredible, now we just need Wes and Jerel to return to form for one final great run.


Unknown said...

We were in every game, in fact, we should have taken every game. Good teams finish. I am disgusted with the Syracuse loss. Foul on a 2 pt dunk with the AND 1 to tie the game? Give me a break. That mistake cost us dearly to the point where Marquette may not recover. Beating the Cuse at home before the BE just might have made all the difference in the world...as a side note...Get your NIT tickets for next year.

Unknown said...

Thanks James, I am still holding my NIT tickets the first year the 3 Amigos arrived and we were entering the BEAST.

Unknown said...

You're welcome. I'd rather be surprised than dissappoined - nes pa? I dont feel we need to give Marquette constant love all the time. They screwed up these last 4 games. I say screwed up because they were all within reach. They need to restore fan confidence with play on the court.

Unknown said...

I don't have to give Marquette constant love. But to write them off as NIT bound before half the team even is a student on campus is nonsense.

Unknown said...

Thats my point - half the team aren't even students.

JohnPudner said...

What was so painful to me about the foul at the end on Flynn was that Acker and McNeal, WHO HAVE BEEN PLAYING TOGETHER SINCE 5TH GRADE, tripped over each other's feet to result in Acker falling into Flynn for the AND ONE.

But I'm not ready on NIT tickets yet - it may take a year, but I think we get there whether next year or the year after.

Unknown said...

Oh you're right bamamarquette fan -Acker and McNeal have played together for years so why the hell were there even near Flynn?! Hmmm.. up 3 points, couple of seconds to go, LET THE MAN GET THE LAYUP! Stay clear, stay clear. I trust you have some basketball knowledge since you read this site. See we could have been up 1 point and Cuse probably would have had to foul us instead we tied and LOST in ot. Unacceptable loss.

Anonymous said...

Focusing on the foul on the steal and layup by Flynn misses the crucial error -- Acker's horrible pass to a stationary McNeal with Flynn openly waiting in the passing lane. If my 5th grade team had made such a fundamental mistake, okay. But this is allegedly Div. 1 basketball. Anyone watching the game knew ahead of time that Flynn would easily jump that passing lane -- that was where he was standing for several seconds prior to Acker's pass, and McNeal's inability to move to an open seam to allow a pass to be made only compounded the situation. Acker looked nowhere but at McNeal the entire time as he prepared to make the pass and McNeal never moved. It was much to easy for Flynn and a "gift" that sealed the fate of the game much more than the subsequent foul. A fundamental mistake that cost the team dearly.

Anonymous said...